The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.
A passion to link consumers with producers … to promote public understanding of farming, and the interconnectedness of health and well-being and the agricultural sector … is the driving force behind the role of the Young Farming Champions (YFC)
Our YFC help agriculture to build its fan base and encourage young people from all walks of life to join them and follow their career pathway into the agriculture sector. Since 2010 they have being doing this very successfully through The Archibull Prize.See our 2017 Annual Report here. The Archibull Prize is a world first. A competition that uses art and multimedia to engage school students in genuine farm experiences, and gain knowledge and skills about the production of the food they eat, the fibres they use and the environment they live in. Young Farming Champions (YFC) participate in The Archibull Prize by visiting and mentoring schools, sharing their stories and insights into contemporary farming practices and inspiring students to consider careers in agriculture.
Over the past three years the YFC have been spreading the agriculture love far and wide as keynote speakers at conferences, delivering TED talks and running events and workshops across the country.
In 2018 our YFC will be participating in a smorgasbord of events to hone their skills and deliver their unique style of engaging and inspiring future generations of agriculture ambassadors and the best and brightest to join the sector
I cant think of a better way to kickstart 2018 than a partnership with the agriculture education team at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. In the lead up to the show we will be inviting Primary School students to sign up to meet the YFC team on Primary School Preview Day in The Food Farm. Students meeting the YFC will participate in hands on workshops for the Cotton, Wool, Horticulture and Egg Industries. They can also chat to YFC and farmer Tim Eyes who will be the star attraction at the Thank a Customer workshop.
Get a taste of Primary School Preview Day here
Secondary students will also get the opportunity to hear from and meet the YFC at the Careers in Ag workshop in Cattle and Horse Experience Arena
We look forward to profiling our Event Activation Team over the next 10 days. Get a sneak peak and meet them here
Today’s guest blog comes from Art4agriculture Young Farming Champion and founder of Ask an Aussie Farmer Kylie Stretton. Kylie shares with us this highly entertaining presentation she gave on International Women’s Day
Rural women are gaining momentum; we are at the forefront of change in how the rest of the country views rural Australia. And our first step is building connections with our urban counterparts. They want to know more, they want to support us, but we need to make the first step. And please know that when I speak about rural Australia, I don’t just mean those working in Agriculture. We need our rural communities as much as they need farmers. Charters Towers is considered “rural”, you are in essence rural women in a rural community, supported by and supporting rural families. A title I wear with immense pride. The rural population of Australia stands at 11% of total population; we need to find ways to make urban Australia including policy makers aware of us. We want them to understand that our numbers may not be huge, but our importance is. We are essential to Australia’s vibrant economic health, natural resource management and producing some of the highest quality food and fibre in the world.
I haven’t always been so vocal about my passion for rural Australia, but it’s obviously been lying dormant within in me, a culmination of having the land in my blood for hundreds of years.
I have a fairly interesting family history, men who were famous watchmakers, opera singers, written about by Charles Dickens and what not. The first of my family to come to Australia were considered pioneers of the Hunter Valley. But there is very little mention about the women. But from what I’ve found out they’re pretty amazing too. There was my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandmother, a farmer’s daughter who sailed with her husband and children from England to Van Diemen’s Land in 1826. They bought with them one of the first purebred Devon heifers to grace Australia’s shores, starting off a legacy in the Australian beef industry, of which I am now 7th generation in.
We’ve just moved further north each generation and the preferred choice of breed is no longer the hairy Devons but the sleek Brahmans. And apart from my grandfather, that line of the family tree has been passed down through women.
Then there was my great-great Grandmother on another branch of the family tree who was apparently a four foot, fiery haired, Irish woman who raised her family among the sand dunes of Cameron’s Corner and was respected (or possibly feared) by many. Then my Grandmother from another branch left Sydney as a young woman and travelled to a station near Boulia in Outback Qld to become the first female bookkeeper that those parts had ever seen.
Aberglassyn House, Hunter Valley. This was built by my great-great-great-great Grandparents in the 1840’s
Then there’s all the other amazing women like my mum, aunty, sister and cousins who probably don’t think they do anything special. But they do. Rural Australia can be a beautiful place but can be harsh and unforgiving for those that eke out a living producing enough food and fibre to feed and clothe 60 million people worldwide each year. These “everyday” women bring a softness into this environment, they bring love and grace to temper the mood swings of the awe inspiring Mother Nature.
Like all bush kids I learnt just how fickle Mother Nature could be. I grew up on a station south east of Charters Towers, down near the Burdekin Dam. (My maiden name is Barnicoat for those of you trying to work out exactly where I fit into Charters Towers) and my schooling was done through the School of Distance Education and Blackheath and Thornburgh College as a boarder. We went from having a massive wet season in 1991 to barely seeing a drop of rain until my first day of Boarding school in 1994. It had been that dry that on my first weekend home from school, I was kept awake by this awful noise. It got the better of me in the end I ran crying to Mum. It turns out that at 13, I’d forgotten what frogs and toads sounded like when they had water to play in.
When I finished school I decided to follow in my Grandmothers footsteps and head west. Not to be a bookkeeper though, my sister got more than her fair share of those sorts of brains, leaving absolutely none for me. Which is scary as we run our own business and I do the books…..
Nor was I going to be a Jillaroo as cattle and horses scare the bejeezus out of me if they get too close. I was going to be a governess and had been offered a job on Gallipoli, which is an Outstation of Alexandria. On the wide open spaces of the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory, Alexandria is one of the biggest cattle stations in the world, it is about a quarter of the size of Tasmania and can run up to 55 000hd of cattle.
The Land of “Nothing”, Barkly Tableland
At first glance it seems to be a “land of nothing”. All blue sky and brown treeless plains. It’s like being in a western movie and you expect a heard of bison to trundle past. But then a massive flock of wild budgerigars wheel over head or some kind of poisonous snake tries to sneak into the school room and you remember exactly what country you’re in.
It’s also isolated by road in the wet season. Which meant I had to fly in on the mail plane. Which was this little sardine can of a Cessna. I had never been on a plane before and it scarred me that much that it took me another 12 years to get on even a 747 heading to Brisbane. I stumbled down the metal shonky steps of this little box of hell, pale as a ghost but still very green around the gills to stand blinking on the rocky dirt airstrip. I squinted through the glare and tears at my welcoming party which consisted of two little brown eyed, blonde haired kids and their dad. And as I shuffled to the left a bit my fuzzy eyes noticed this huge strapping lad. “Oh dear god, please do not let me vomit on his boots.” No, I didn’t disgrace myself, in fact I still must have cut an alright figure. Or maybe my frailness touched this young man’s heart. Or maybe he just moved quick before all the other young ringers came back from holidays as women are scarce out there. Because we’ve been married for nearly 12 years and have two blonde children of our own.
After moving around a bit, we came back to Charters Towers for the kids to be closer to their Grandparents and cousins. And it was good to be home. I’ve heard it said before that you don’t have to be indigenous to feel an affinity for the land. And I get that. My heart lies in the sandy creeks with paper bark tea trees, milky water and black basalt rocks of the Burdekin region. I am so pleased that our little block has a couple of these creeks. They may be hard work with the noxious weeds in them, but I hope Ella-Beth and Clancy grow up appreciating the true beauty and vitality of this district.
And a few years after that we decided to bite the bullet and start our own livestock agency. Now in case anyone’s confused about what a livestock agent does, it means we buy and sell cattle on behalf of our clients, trying to source the best market for them. Like real estate with cattle. Not trying to get them acting gigs like someone has suggested before. Our client base extends across the Southern Gulf, Burdekin and Fitzroy regions, all in the top five beef producing regions of Australia. Because of the diversity, our clients also supply all different types of markets, including live export.
Assessing cattle for Auctions Plus, an online livestock marketing tool
But then came the Four Corners episode “A Bloody Business”, showing horrific cruel treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesia. The footage sent shock waves through Australia, urban and rural. And within a week Minister for Agricultural Joe Ludwig bowed under the pressure and suspended live export to Indonesia even to first class facilities, effectively shutting down Northern Australia. And what followed, and still happening today on our own shores is just as heartbreaking as the cruelty inflicted on our beautiful cattle.
Families just like yours, families such as mine are still floundering in the aftermath. The most viable market that many cattle producers had in the north has been halved. And it’s the smaller, family owned stations that are suffering the most. Many are saying that they can’t go another two years at this rate, they will be forced to leave the land they love so much. Property prices have plummeted and in some areas are unsaleable. Without an income, producers cannot run their properties, which will in turn lead to a decrease in natural resource management and animal welfare. As these things don’t come cheap. Many have had to put off staff and bring their children home from boarding school. They are spending less and less in their local communities which means these communities have a declining population. And with smaller populations it’s harder for these communities to hold on to essential services such as education, emergency services, health and aged care. The effect goes much further than a few rich pastoralists as many would have us believe.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, there has been plenty of positives to come out of it. At that time, I used Facebook to keep in touch with old school friends and other friends from towns I’d moved from. But then I noticed the prevalence of all these anti live export, anti livestock production and anti farmer groups. And I got mad. Be damned if I let an animal rights organisation in Melbourne tell the world how we raised our cattle and ran our business. Social Media played a big factor in taking the industry down, it would be an important tool in building it back up again. Gone were the days where we just went about our work, we had to build those connections; we couldn’t let anyone else tell our stories.
And I started to stumble upon people on Facebook and Twitter who had the same idea as I did, and not just live exporting sheep and cattle producers. Farmers from all sorts of industries, all over the country. Wool, dairy, pigs, chicken, cotton, rice farmers, just to name a few all had the misinformed condemning finger of small but very loud groups pointed at them. And we realised that we had to be proactive rather than reactive, we had to learn how to engage with consumers and the general public better. Agriculture and farmers are among the highest trusted industries and professions in Australia, we need to keep it like that.
So a group of us started up Ask An Aussie Farmer, a Facebook and Twitter initiative where consumers can come and ask farmers directly why and how they do things rather than relying on Google and anti farming sites. The support we’ve received from people is overwhelming and every positive connection makes a difference. I have learnt so much about all different types of farming. Every system has its pros and cons. But the biggest thing I’ve learnt and would love to share with everyone is that we as consumers are extremely lucky in Australia to have a such a choice in farming methods that we can choose a product that best suits our values, needs and circumstances.
I was also accepted to be an Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion representing beef. Which meant I had to get on a plane and go to Sydney for the first time in my life. Being a YFC has been an awesome experience. I should explain that in the farming world under 35 is considered young. The average age of Australian Farmers is 59, compared to 40 of other professions. We get to meet other young people from other industries and learn important skills such as public speaking, engaging with the community, promoting our industry in a positive manner and handling the media.
Then we go into schools, in Brisbane, Sydney and their greater regions and talk to the students about our industry and the enormous opportunities for careers in Agriculture available to anyone regardless of their past or future.
I also talk about life on a cattle station in North Queensland as it’s a very different world. The schools in return have to complete blogs and videos about what they’ve learned. And the best bit is that they get to decorate life sized, fibreglass cows, the best winning prizes.
These children are amazing, they are so switched on, they love hearing about what we do and some keep in touch and try and soak up everything they can about agriculture. This program, known as the Archibull Prize has been opened right up, so if there’s any teachers here that are interested, or you want your child’s school to participate, please see me afterwards for more details.
Then I was nominated for Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network (or QRRRWN for short) Strong Women leadership awards. My nomination was for my dedication in encouraging others to tell their stories, to stand up and be heard but most of all to believe in themselves. It was very humbling to be nominated, I love what I do and to be recognised for it gave me a huge confidence boost.
So I packed the kids in the car, and drove over 1000km to St George where the annual conference was being held. I finally got to meet all these wonderful women I only knew from the internet or media interviews. I attended a series of workshops, built a huge network and even got to meet foreign correspondent Sally Sara and listen to her speak .
QRRWN is a fantastic organisation dedicated to building stronger rural communities. The support network they have formed for the farmers devastated by floods in South East Queensland is tremendous. They have two new recent initiatives, one being the Strong Women Leadership Awards. Nominations for the 2013 awards opened today, I have brought along some fliers, so please nominate those you think deserve that recognition. The other new initiative is the Strong Women Webinars. Every month an inspiring woman talks about her journey and her vision. I have also brought along some fliers and registration forms for the Webinars. There is also a form to sign up for the QRRRWN E-newsletter. Everyone who puts their name down to receive that goes into the draw to win a yearly subscription to the Strong Women Webinars. I listened to the amazing Catherine Marriott, runner up for Rural Woman of the year in 2012 this morning. Some upcoming webinars will feature chef Maggie Beer, clothing designer Liz Davenport and amazing business woman Miriam Silva The QRRRWN 2014 conference will be held here in Charters Towers, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming details.
One thing I’ve learnt through all of this is that if you want change, you need to participate. If you want better education, health, safety, understanding for your cause or whatever your community needs don’t be afraid to stand up and say your piece. We can’t sit back and expect industry bodies and government to change everything for us, it’s up to us to get the ball rolling. It is up to us to affect change. Believe in yourself, your community and your cause and others will support you. Three years ago I would have never of believed that I would be doing the things I am.
Everyone has a gift, just not everyone has opened theirs yet.
Today we feature the outstanding and multi-talented Queensland farmer and artist Annabel Tully
Annabel Tully painting with her “easel” on her homeland “Bunginderry” in Qld’s Channel Country
Firstly a little background
Art4Agriculture is an independent, non-political, partnership focused, not for profit grass roots organisation. We deliver programs designed by farmers for farmers that focus on youth, careers, the community, the environment and the arts and link all of these back to agriculture
We only work with organisations who partner for the common good of agriculture.
In 2011 RIRDC provided seed funding to get our Young Farming Champions program off the ground. What a watershed moment that has proved to be for the future of food security in this country.
RIRDC have a number of initiatives that nurture rural and regional talent and one of these is the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award
To me this award identifies outstanding rural women in each state of Australia who day-in and day-out perform with flare, dedication and success resulting in creating growth and well-being for their own businesses, their communities and organisations they belong to.
Each winner has identified an exceptional community or industry good program they wish to undertake and the award provides them with funding and a support network to bring their vision to fruition.
Just by being nominated for an award is a tremendous boost for any individual or team program. Its says “We think you are equal to or better than the very best in the country”
Having participated in a number of award processes I know there are many positive flow on effects. Art4agriculture have been awarded grants and contracts and our Young Farming Champions have received opportunities of a lifetime as a result of the attention focused on successful award entries.
Art4agriculutre has now formed a partnership with Annabel Tully who shares our commitment to deliver the best outcomes for agriculture at every turn
You can see why Annabel lights our fire by reading her story here
I’ve just been on the most incredible journey…….
No it’s not Nepal, Cambodia or the Greek Isles, I’ve just spent the last 12 months being a part of the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Awards process in Queensland. (It does go national) I am thrilled to say I am a finalist headed for a big interview process in Brisbane next month. This journey of self-reflection has really nailed down for me exactly why I have a fire in my belly about anything rural and remote and what am I going to do with it?
So a little on my background… I’m a woman (for starters), a wife, a mother, a farmer, a teacher , an artist and an advocate for our bush way of life. For many years I have put my hand up for anything that had a farming or arts touch to it. But what really keeps that fire burning, is the people, without us, there is no agriculture. Sounds pretty simple, if not, stupid, I know, but when we are confronted with all the pressures of contemporary agriculture…..environment, global food security, financial pressures of feeding and educating another generation… blah blah blah…. the people part of agriculture is something I am not willing to forget. Let me share this journey with you if I may be so bold as to ask for a moment or 2 of your precious time???
So my pitch for the Awards is a project I call “Creative Cowboys.” Come one, come all!
I’m offering an opportunity for fun and laughter and a reason to connect with the person standing next to you. I plan to offer all-inclusive arts based activities for people living in farming communities – yes even those who can’t even draw a stick figure! The aim is to offer some respite for farmers, a no man’s land where we you may chat to the stranger next to you about not very much at all, and that’s the whole point.
Annabel Tully 2011 Tongalderry Channels (wet) Oil, pigment and found ochre on linen
Bushies are a resilient mob, a humble mob, a sometimes quiet and unassuming mob. We are faced with many challenges, and this is what brings the enormous rewards and our determination to stay. We problem solve, more often than not, without the assistance of others. But without the people, there is no agriculture. So I aim to offer a little respite, a shady tent at a field day or rodeo, if you like, where friends, neighbours and strangers can come together and have some fun, a little calm before the next storm. Because if you are a bushie, you know what I’m talking about…. there will be a next time, not so far in the future, when we will need to band together for survival.
Whether I am successful in my bid for the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award bursary for this project is not the end of this journey. I’ve already reached my destination. The process of simply applying for the awards has enabled me to realise what my skills are and how I can make a difference. I am clear about my role in this glorious life I lead in the bush. Are you?
You can read more about and/or contact Annabel here
“All you need is two eyes, two hands and your heart in the right place to make a difference”
I had the pleasure of attending the Heywire Gala Dinner last night. Art4agriculuture is a proud supporting partner of Heywire and Heywire of us. The relationship is a collaborative partnership that is as simple as cross promoting each others activities.
One of the features of the dinner was a number of inspiring speeches from young people. They included some of this years winners like Alyssa Allen and Melody Pedler, former winner Naomi Gooden and Jack Black look alike Chris Raine the inspiration behind Hello Sunday Morning who said this last night “All you need is two eyes, two hands and your heart in the right place to make a difference” He is so right. If we really want to we all have the necessary body parts that we can mobilise to make a difference .
Chris Raine from Hello Sunday Morning – wow doesn’t he look like Jack Black
Art4agriculture exists for young people in agriculture and provides them with the opportunity to make a difference in so many ways and they ARE and they can show you.
Young Farming Champion Stephanie Tarlinton inspiring next gen to be dairy farmers in this primary school winning video entry from Schofields Public School
The dedicated Art4agriculture team and now the 2011 Young Farming Champions alumni wake up each morning committed to providing vehicles and platforms to source funding, open doors and smooth the way to showcase the talented young people in agriculture. Sadly too often in agriculture we make what should be easy, too hard and we burn our young people out
One of our 2011 Young Farming Champions Alumni Emma Visser was lucky enough to be one of the 35 young Heywire winners from regional Australia who travelled to Canberra for the week long Youth Summit .
In their final job for the week, the group presented the big ideas they’ve been working on to their peers, an expert panel from different sectors, stakeholders and senior ABC staff.
After dividing themselves into nine interest groups during the week, each group was required to pitch a concise idea that would benefit the community relating to their specialty.
The groups were focusing on topics like small town survival, immigration and inclusion, the impact of mining on regional communities and Indigenous heritage.
Emma Visser and her team of Alyssa Allen, Krissy Reilly and Melody Pedler after much collaboration decided they would pitch a website called AGregate – a website to collect information about careers, education opportunities and student exchanges in regional areas. You can hear the AGregate pitch here
Emma and her team pitch the “AGregate” website
The AGregate team like all the Heywire winners were presented with their winners certificates by Senator Joe Ludwig Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Emma Visser is a city girl who moved to the Illawarra region of New South Wales, she says it (AGregate) would help show people that you can make the move successfully.
“I have a strong passion for agriculture and I’m not from an agricultural background.
For me it’s important other young people get that opportunity, and Heywire has been a great way for me to show that even if you’re not from a farming background you can still get in to a career in agriculture”.
She says her main objective was to try and bridge the gap between rural and urban communities, and make life easier for someone searching for a potential career in agriculture.
Naomi Gooden a 2002 winner was especially impressed with Emma’s group’s use of a website.
“These are innovative ideas using technology of today that Australians can connect to”.
Naomi went on to say “ Just because you’ve pitched your idea doesn’t mean the idea is done – you don’t have to rely on a government department to take up your idea, you can go home and do it.”
It’s a sentiment that would resonate with fellow audience member Chris Raine, founder and CEO of the website Hello Sunday Morning.
As a hard-living advertiser he chose to give up alcohol and blog about the process.
The popular website is now a go-to portal for people wanting to try a healthy challenge and contribute their stories.
Naomi says there are always people happy to help see ideas become realities.
“You can find mentors and support but if you really believe in your idea, don’t let it stop here, it’s very possible – this is the first step of something really great.”
Emma Visser says the week-long summit has given her skills she’ll be able to use later in life.
“We’ve picked up a lot of things which have built our confidence to get up and put forward something we’re passionate about and do it effectively.
“We were taught how to relax so we’re not as nervous and the importance of storytelling – we found out it’s important to tell a story so you can connect with an audience on a emotional level which makes it more personal.”
Technology is something Emma is passionate about, and just like her AGregate website, she will continue to make informative videos about life on the land, just like her Cows Create Careers video that attracted a whooping 15,000 web hits in 2 years. In fact its gone viral and has been attracting 1000 hits week for the last 4 weeks
“I love multimedia – it’s the most effective way of telling my story”. said Emma
“It’s great when I go in to schools and communicate with them because with my videos they can hear from me and see my job and what I do.
“It’s a great visual aid and I’ve heard people say they want to be like me because of these movies.”
Emma is just one of many young people Art4agriculuture has identified who are using “the two eyes, two hands and their heart to make a difference.”
Never before has it been more important for Australia to invest in our young people in rural regional and remote Australia. They are the lifeblood of our communities
If you are an Australian farmer you can make a difference by lobbying your peak industry body to invest in your next gen farmers.
Back to Emma and her thoughts on the long term outcomes of opportunities like being a Young Farming Champion who are provided with professional development and the skills set to confidentially share their story with urban audiences
Emma sums it up
“I have told my story so many times I don’t need a script. My story comes from the heart, it resonates with the audiences I want to reach. It is inspiring young people to follow my career pathway into farming. It inspires young people to step out of their comfort zone and it inspires young people to see the value in collaboration. I am nineteen years old and I have the skills and confidence to spend next 80 odd years making a difference”
As a proud Heywire supporting partner we are thrilled to let you know entries are open for the 2012 competition. If you fit the age criteria or know some-one who does tap them on the shoulder and suggest they enter for the opportunity to experience the best week of their life
Also tweeting via @heywire and #heywire
On facebook: at www.facebook.com/abcheywire
Join us on flickr here http://www.flickr.com/groups/abcheywire/
Meet all of the 2011 Heywire winners and why not enter the 2012 competition NOW.
Recently Victoria Taylor asked in the Flourish Files AgScience and the Shrinking Work Force “Why can’t we retain students in Agricultural Science courses?” Victoria suggested that one of the reasons was the lack of clarity about the highly diverse careers in agriculture and if a student decides at the end of first year that they don’t want to be an agronomist or farmer anymore, how do we let them know there are a number of other career options open to Agriculture Science graduates?
Art4agriculuture have taken up this challenge and will be posting a number of blogs written by exciting young people who have completed agriculture degrees and now work in the agrifood sector or are doing exciting things whilst completing their agriculture related degree
This blog post has been adapted from the presentation Hollie gave at the Careers Advisors Conference in Liverpool, Sydney in November 2011.
Where can an agricultural degree take you? by Hollie Baillieu
The answer is – anywhere you chose!
I couldn’t be happier knowing that I have a strong future in agriculture.
I think that most people have the perception of agriculture as being a male dominated industry. To put it simply, the Agricultural sector wants females, they are encouraging us and they are employing us and more and more I see no hesitation when a woman enters a room looking for a job in agriculture.
I grew up on a small property in Exeter, in the Southern Highlands only a couple of hours south of Sydney. Here we had cattle, sheep, goats and for a time – meat rabbits. I have always been surrounded by dogs, horses, ducks and geese, chickens, and more often than not I would have a lamb or kid close on my heels thinking I was its mum.
I went on to study Agriculture at high school by correspondence as one of my subjects for the HSC which gave me just a taste for what was to come.
After school I took a year off from study so after travelling to India, the UK and parts of America I started the season in the Northern Territory on a cattle station called Newcastle Waters.
The station is 3.5 million acres, holding 50,000 commercial cattle and 5000 stud cattle. Newcastle Waters was special to me because my grandfather had once owned it. The fact that I was there, where my grandfather had been meant a lot to me, however it didn’t really help me adjust to the work ahead.
Dare I say it but most of the men had more ego than brain. This gave me a challenge. I didn’t know what I was doing, I wasn’t rough and blokey, I was tentative, shy, and most of the time I was just nervous I was going to mess it up.
During the day we were on horse back mustering the cattle from their paddocks to the yards. This was a full days ride and at the start of the season we were up at 3.30am, in the saddle by daylight and walking the cattle in until 10 or 11pm at night.
It was blistering hot, my lips doubled in size and my hands peeled from sunburn. We were tired, thirsty and so too were the cattle. The next day would be a day in the yards, sorting, culling, weaning and pregnancy testing. Another long dusty dry day and then we would turn around and do it all again the next day.
I don’t think words could explain exactly what it was like. As I said it was a challenge. I had one thing on my side in that I could ride. There were some jackaroos who had never ridden a horse and I’ll tell you they learnt pretty quickly.
In this environment particularly, a purely physical environment, as a girl you have to prove yourself. A couple of months in I was gradually doing that. At one point I was the only girl in a camp of 10 guys; once again it was a challenge. But I persisted, there was no way I was quitting and by the end of the year, I had gained lifelong friends and I didn’t want to leave.
However it was time to move on and I started a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Sydney University and later transferred to the same course in Wagga.
When I started uni I gave myself choices. I also signed up for the Army Reserve. I knew I loved agriculture but I didn’t know where I could really go with it and I had always been interested in the Army so I thought if I do this and if one doesn’t work out, I have options.
I loved being involved in the reserves and I always felt proud when I put my uniform on, but in the end Agriculture has taken me on and it’s consumed my life really. I think that there are a lot of links between the sort of people that are in the army and those in agriculture. In fact during the interview process they loved that I had a rural background. They mentioned it couple of times that country people can often do very well in the army. Apparently it’s the practical nature and easy going personality that really works in the army.
My involvement in the wider agriculture industry really began when I signed up to the NSW Young Farmers Council late in 2009.
It started with just a phone call to see how I could be more involved in the NSW Farmers Association and from that I went along to the leadership forum. It was fantastic and in 3 months I became the vice chair and in March this year I was voted in as the Chair of the Young Farmer Council. It all happened very quickly and I have no doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am and I would not have had the opportunities that I have had if it wasn’t for the NSW Farmers Association and our Young Farmer Council.
You have those people who are perhaps more practically minded and hands on and those that are more management focused and perhaps corporate based. The great thing is that the agriculture industry can incorporate all of these people
We need practical people who want to be hands and the vocational educational training (VET) courses through TAFE are a fantastic system and can work very well. A few of my friends at university did VET courses while still at school and universities are recognising these qualifications and giving credit points towards a degree.
And the second group of students are those that are more corporate and management focused or just more suited to a university degree.
My experience tells me it is imperative that the correct educational institution is matched to the student. I fell into the trap of choosing a degree at a university that all my friends were going to. I didn’t look into what suited me and hence why I didn’t stay there very long.
When I started my agriculture degree off at Sydney University I did this for a number of reasons. It had the highest UAI acceptance, it had the best name, it was exciting and all my friends were there. I didn’t even look into other uni’s because I had made up my mind Sydney was the uni for me.
Sadly it didn’t work out for me. What I found was that Sydney unis course focused heavily on research. If I was into laboratory work and research I couldn’t recommend it more highly. It had an extremely high level of expectation and achievement and produces phenomenal graduates. What it lacks is the practical component that I love so much. The first year and some of the second I believe – we are put in classes with the med students and vet students. Us aggies didn’t get UAI’s of 99 so the standard was incredible and for me I wasn’t dedicated enough to really push myself and go through with it. And sadly there many who felt the same.
So I transferred to Charles Sturt Uni (CSU) in Wagga and I haven’t looked back since. At Sydney we wouldn’t have done the practical stuff until 4th year but in Wagga we were living within a working property so we were constantly surrounded by it, we lived and breathed it and loved it.
At CSU, they know every individual – you are not a number, you are a person. The courses are so relevant and the lecturers are so in tune with what the students want from the course
CSU have just started a really interesting element to the agriculture degree. It is now a four year course but in that 4thyear – half the year you are actually employed by an agribusiness. So you are out in the work force experiencing what its like. Which I think is really good especially if you don’t know what area you want to go into – its not so good for those people who do know where they want to be but it will be interesting to hear from the group for 2012 how it is and what they got out of it.
The other uni’s on the east coast are UNE in Armidale, Gatton in QLD and Marcus Oldham in Victoria. I have had friends at each of these with both UNE and Gatton and they say similar things to what it is like at CSU. The courses are called slightly different things but basically very similar and hands on. Marcus Oldham is a little different because it is a private university. It’s quite expensive but the courses tend to be shorter and they are jam packed rather than being so spread out like the other uni’s often do.
One thing that I have learnt over the past few years is the importance of being involved in the industry before you enter it. So at university get holiday work and jobs that fit your industry. Over the years I have worked in many areas of agriculture including an alpaca stud, a vineyard, cattle stud, a dairy and the cotton industry
You must have an interest and want to get involved in it or when you start your first job – you are behind the eight ball.
I have found that my involvement with NSW Young Farmers Council has helped with my knowledge of the industry, I am more knowledgeable about the issues that are important to farmers in all primary industries and I have a broader understanding of agriculture and its politics in general. I used to get so frustrated at people in my own course who had no solid opinion about the live export ordeal or what was happening with grains, international trade, the price wars, competing against countries that have large subsidies – I could go on. It frustrated me because they had no interest and this was the industry they were entering into. It is so important to know your industry, to soak up all the info out there and grasp a really strong handle on what is happening and get involved.
The way I see it we need to get a broader understanding of agriculture and how it’s related to our every day lives. I love hearing of people who combined degrees. Engineering with agriculture. Architecture with Agriculture. Agriculture with economics. All those people to feed and clothe and house. Innovation and technology – nano, GPS, VRT, GM. I could go on all day saying how I love this industry and how passionate I am – its not just some crazy whim – there is such huge potential, it is incredible and I love it.
Each year the Readers Digest does a poll to determine Australia’s most trusted professions. Last year as you can see farmers came in at number 7.
Top ten most trusted professions in 2011
4. Rescue volunteers
8. Medical specialists
Four years ago when farmers were at number 9 I showed the list to a group of farmers and posed the question “ why aren’t farmers at the top of the list”. The farmers around the table replied “ the majority of the professions in the top 10 save lives”. My reply was without farmers supplying people with food, their most basic of needs, there would be no life and we need to find away to remind people just how important farmers are.
At that time I received mostly blank looks to my suggestion from the farmers around the table. I thought this was very sad and recognised we also needed to find a way to make farmers realise just how important they are. After all if you don’t believe in yourself how can you expect anyone else too.
So I began a crusade to fix this lack of appreciation of farmer self worth and initiated the Art4Agriculture programs to provide opportunities for farmers to share their stories with the community and in turn get a greater understanding of the community’s expectations of the people who supply them with food and fibre. The aim was to create a two way appreciation between rural and urban communities and an understanding of how much we rely on each other other.
This year is Australian Year of the Farmer. A once in a life time opportunity to remind people (farmers and the community alike) just how important our farmers are.
Australian Year of the Farmer is an opportunity for every primary industry, every rural community and every farmer to invite their urban cousins to join them in a 365 day celebration.
Beyond Art4agriculture’s activities I am having a dinner party once a month for my urban friends. They will receive a copy of an Australian rural showcase like Fiona Lake’s books which my first guests were lucky enough to get.
We will celebrate local produce, drink local wine and I will be encouraging them to wake up each morning and say “I thank a farmer today”
There is no shortage of great food on the South Coast. And just to prove it we recently won the 100 mile challenge
What do you have planned?
Well known Australian author Fleur McDonald– the voice of outback has pledged to get hold of 52 Farmers and post a blog a week from a farmer. From every part of Agriculture; grain, stock, mixed, fishing, dairy, viticulture, communications and so on and so forth!
This week I am very honoured to say I am farmer no 4. You will find my blog on Fleur’s site as well as at the bottom of this post.
CALL TO ARMS
This is my challenge to Australian farmers. Farmers are currently number 7 on Australia’s most trusted professions list. How can we work together to make 2012 the year Australia votes to put their farmers at number 1?
I look forward to working with each and everyone of you to make this happen
Fleur McDonald – Australian Year of the Farmer – a farmers story No 4 by Lynne Strong Clover Hill Dairies
Firstly I would like thank Fleur McDonald for giving me this opportunity to share my story and congratulate her for taking the lead in Australian Year of the Farmer by sharing 52 farmers’ stories. For too long food has been about cooking and eating and recipes and restaurants with little attention paid to the origin of the key ingredients. It’s time for everyone in the food value chain to follow Fleur’s lead and put faces to the product and give our customers real farmers they can relate to
1. Summary of your family and farming enterprise
My name is Lynne Strong and I farm at Clover Hill Dairies in partnership with my husband Michael and son Nick in what I refer to as paradise – the beautiful Jamberoo valley on the South Coast of NSW.
Jamberoo is the birth place of the Australian dairy industry and the cooperative movement and my family has been farming here for 180 years.
I am actively involved in the day to day running of our two dairy farms where we milk 500 cows that produce milk to supply over 50,000 Australians daily.
The highlight of my farming journey to date has been winning the National Landcare Primary Producer Award. This award recognises farmers who have a holistic view of farming and are committed to achieving the delicate balance between sustainable and profitable food production, and the health and wellbeing of people, animals and the planet
2. Why I farm
· I farm because the people I care about most in the world farm and they are in it for the long haul
· I farm because I believe feeding, clothing and housing the world is the noblest profession
· I farm because I like the mental intensity, the constant review process, the drive to get up each day and do it better. The fulfilling challenge of balancing productivity, people, animals and the planet
· I farm because inspirational people farm. Feeding, clothing and housing the world now and in the next 50 years is going to require an extraordinary effort. This means we need extraordinary people to take up the challenge. When I work with inspirational people, they light my fire, feed my soul and challenge me to continue to strive to make a unique contribution to agriculture and the community.
3. What do you foresee as the biggest short term and long term challenges in farming?
Sadly Australia is complacent about the challenges to food security. There is a lack of appreciation by society in general of the interdependence of environment, agriculture, food and health.
However if we are to progress and fuel the mushrooming food needs of the cities while meeting the community’s expectations for environmental sustainability and animal well-being, then both rural and urban communities must have greater mutual empathy and respect.
This I believe is the real challenge facing farmers in the immediate future -How do we fix it?
As I see it we can do one of two things. We (farmers) can sit back and lament that we are victims or we can actively acknowledge that farmers are business people selling a product and successful businesses recognise marketing is a strategic part of doing business.
Marketing doesn’t mean every farmer needs to have a logo, spend money on advertising, write a marketing plan, write a blog, join Twitter or Facebook – it simply means being customer focused. This means you have to understand your customer and their values and your business has to BE the image you want your customer to see.Then whenever you get a chance, put that image out there. It may be at the farmgate, at a local farmers market, a community meeting, a media interview or whenever you are in contact with consumers.
Every sector of the food system whether they be farmers, manufacturers, branded food companies, supermarkets or restaurants is under ever increasing pressure to demonstrate they are operating in a way that is consistent with stakeholder values and expectations. Farmers cannot expect to be exempted from this scrutiny just because we grow the food.
Businesses are built on relationships. This means we (farmers) have to get out there in our communities and start having two way conversations with our customers
Excitingly I know that once farmers embrace the concept they will discover like me that it can be very rewarding talking to your customers. They are interested and they do care.
There are so many ways farmers can share their stories. To help achieve this I initiated the innovative ‘Art4Agriculture’ programs which started with Picasso Cows and is now the Archibull Prize. The Archibull Prize uses art and multimedia to engage thousands of students in learning about the valuable role farmers play in Australia’s future.
With the Art4Agriculture team I am working on establishing an Australia wide network of ‘young agricultural champions’ who are trained to tell the great story of Australian agriculture to the next generation of consumers – students.
This program connects young people from different food and fibre industries. They get to see their similarities, they find common ground, they realise each has issues that are just as challenging, and they learn how they can help each other.
Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions program for 2012 will train a team of 24 young farmers from regional Australia to actively engage with students in schools around Australia. The students will focus on a particular food or fibre industry, receive a unique insight from their Young Farming Champion and then enter their project work (their Archie) to vie for the ‘Archibull Prize’.
Our Young Farming Champions will also have the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive and diverse array of initiatives offered by our supporting partners. These events will provide a platform from which to develop, build and strengthen the capacity of the Young Farming Champions and allow primary industries to develop key farmer-to-stakeholder and farmer-to-consumer relationships.
Through their involvement in Art4Agriculture school programs our Young Farming Champions will be able to directly market their food or fibre industry and its diverse career pathways to a captive and relevant audience. The legacy of the Young Farming Champions program is to create an Australia wide network of enthusiastic young professionals and build their capacity to promote Australian agriculture as a dynamic, innovative, rewarding and vibrant industry.
We believe this program will not only help build the capability of young rural people to farm with resilience and confidence it will provide a great platform to spark the next generations’ interest in an agricultural career.
4. What is my vision for the future?
My vision for the future isn’t too difficult; it just requires a different way of thinking. I believe a profitable and sustainable healthy future for the farming sector is achievable – the health and welfare of all Australians and many people around the world depends on it.
To drive the process of change requires champions and leaders. But to change grass roots perceptions, we need grass roots action. Farmers care about the country, their livestock and the people they provide with food and fibre. Beyond best farming practices, farmers have to be out in communities, walking the talk – from paddock to plate, from cow to consumer – and building trust between rural and urban communities. I want farming men and women to go out and sell the message that feeding and clothing the world is an awesome responsibility and a noble profession, and that it offers great careers. Just imagine if we could achieve my vision of an Australia-wide network of trained, passionate farmers talking directly with the communities they supply!
5. What do you wish non-farmers / city people & the Australian Government understood about farming?
Australian farmers proudly feed and clothe 60 million people. If they were doctors or nurses or pharmacists or ambulance officers or firemen there would be a moment in most people’s lives when they would be reminded just how important those professions are. But farmers, at less than 1 per cent of the Australian population, are almost invisible and with food in abundance in this country, there is little opportunity to remind Australians just how important our farmers are. I am hoping Australian Year of the Farmer starts a very long conversation and a new appreciation for the land that produces our food and the hands that grow it
6. What would I like to see on a billboard?
Billboard – across Sydney Harbour Bridge
“If you want safe, affordable, nutritious food forever love the land that produces it and the hands that grow it.”
Art4Agriculture team members Lynne Strong, Melissa Henry and Hollie Baillieu all recently presented at the Future Focused Ag Oz forum in Sydney on November 26th/27th on the topic of Leadership
Hollie has kindly agreed to share her presentation with you
Everyone in this room is a leader – the fact that you came here today makes you one. You don’t wake up and think – today is the day I will be a leader. Its gradual, it evolves and sometimes you don’t even know its happened and perhaps it takes you a while to accept that you are one. Its only when you get ownership of something that that sense of pride sets in. When you are in part responsible for the success of something, you are responsible for the direction of a group and you are responsible for people other than yourself – that’s when you realise that hey maybe I do have leadership qualities.
Being the age I am and the age most of you are in this room – I think we are becoming leaders, – we have a long way to go however, we are evolving into those sorts of people that have leadership qualities and those that have influence over others.
I would like you to have a think for me – I would like you to think of someone that you would do anything for, perhaps someone you would trust your life with.
While you are thinking of that person or maybe there are a few people that spring to mind, I would like to put something to you. I mentioned the word influence before. I believe that leadership is about influence, how you influence those around you.
True leadership is there regardless of position within a business, group. They hold a high degree of influence, Those around them choose to serve them. I don’t see someone who uses their position to influence necessarily shows leadership.
Hopefully you have all thought of that person you would do anything for, you would trust your life with. What do they do or what attributes do they have that make them that person.
When I thought of the people that have the highest degree of influence over me I thought of a few things.
They are authentic – they are real, they are genuine, they are not those people that look over your shoulder at a party searching for someone else they would rather talk to.
They are committed to what they have said they will do, They are loyal to a cause and they are loyal to you and your team.
They share a vision and therefore empower the rest of the group.
They are inclusive and understand that when their team feels good and feels needed – it will work more easily as one.
They show integrity – their behaviour serves as a role model for everyone else.
There are many more attributes but you know what makes those people in your life special.
I want you to take a step back and look at yourself, I have no doubt that you all hold some or all of those attributes and I have no doubt that someone holds you in that light, that you have that degree of influence.
So, Greg asked me to talk about some of those things that have helped me in the positions that I now have. The reason I introduced the term leadership so broadly was basically for you to understand how I see that level and degree of influence as a key driver to effective leadership.
The roles I now have as Chair of the NSW Farmers Young Farmer Council, an ambassador for Agrifood Skills Australia and a Young Farming Champion for the Art4Ag schools program – I guess I show some attributes of leadership but as I said before – I believe I am too young and inexperienced to be a fully formed leader although hopefully I am becoming one and continue to evolve into a stronger more effective one.
I have narrowed my thoughts into three key areas, they are basic – nothing too incredible but perhaps the simpler things, again I will use this word, those things that we personally have influence over and perhaps its those little things we forget sometimes.
Things that have helped me along the way
– This first point stems from my mum and she still says it to me all the time but seriously it has helped me. “Talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime” ( ask Hollie to share her airport story)
This phrase – is especially important in the agriculture industry. It is incredible who people know in this industry and I am finding this out more and more each day within my role with Australian Year of the Farmer as they all link in with my other roles in the industry.
– The second point which anyone who knows me will understand and that is to smile and be friendly. This is so simple but people forget to do it. When you smile and are friendly not only you as a person is happier but I will generate that smile around the room or in your group. Remember when you felt anxious and nervous – it is the most awful feeling and I get actually get these feelings quite often. However, when I am doing things with the Young Farmer Council especially – I don’t feel nervous or anxious because its my arena, I know where I am and generally what I am doing ( laughs Bec might disagree). I’m comfortable in this situation. When we have held an event and a new person joins us – you can tell very quickly if they are feeling comfortable or not. I don’t want people to feel anxious or nervous when they are around me or when they are involved with something that I am in part responsible for running. You will all agree with me – that when you see a smiling friendly person – you immediately calm and know that you have a friend.
– Remember this – when your team feels comfortable, when they feel included and at ease – that is when you get the best out of them and in turn the best comes out in you and as a team you are then the most effective you can be.
– Lastly, as I said this is simple stuff and this is perhaps the most simple and something you can change very quickly.
And that is your appearance. The most critical time for this is when we are all just starting off in the world. We are in such a competitive environment – we cant afford to be lacking in those areas that are so easily changed.
Remember appearance isn’t just what you look like – it is the whole package. I want you to literally visualise this – Two people are going for an interview. Someone who has a smile on their face, who looks great, with a strong hand shake and looks people in the eye will always have it over someone who walks into an interview who has a weak hand shake, doesn’t look them in the eye and looks like they have just jumped off the sofa after watching a twilight marathon. That is one thing that you can do so easily, that you directly influence.
These little things are really important. I’m organising the recruiting process for the AYOF Road Show – I have been looking at a lot of CV’s, cover letters and those people who spell my name wrong get an immediate shake of the head. It’s the whole package, the little things matter, you can directly influence those things and I reckon we are forgetting those little things – don’t. The little things have helped me and maybe at some point they will help you to.
Thanks Hollie all of us who know and love you certainly can testify your smile could light the nite sky during a blackout.